“Exciting things have been happening at Westbank this year. For me, personally, the big reveal of our new Community Cookery School at the end of September was the culmination of months of hard work, during which I oversaw the transformation of a redundant cafe area into a bespoke teaching kitchen.

It was fantastic to finally show off this welcoming and practical space to would-be users and commissioners, and all of us at Westbank are now looking forward to hearing the clatter of pots and pans as we start to get our free cookery courses for local people underway. 

The idea for creating a bespoke teaching kitchen at Westbank’s HQ began bubbling away just over a year ago. During the Covid-19 pandemic, our charity provided households in need with food boxes containing fresh produce. While they were extremely grateful, many recipients told us they didn’t know how to prepare and cook a lot of the ingredients they had been gifted. That got us thinking. What could we do to equip individuals and families with the knowledge, skills and confidence to make nutritious, affordable meals from scratch? 

Since first asking that question, the sharp rise in the cost of living has forced many households, particularly those on low incomes, to stretch their grocery budget even further. So, the idea of a community cookery school slowly took shape - a purpose-built facility to teach people of all ages how to prepare meals using fresh ingredients grown in our allotment or sourced as locally as possible. By minimising waste, using seasonal fruit and veg and bulk cooking, we aim to empower people to feed themselves and their families more affordably. 

Since putting out the word about the progress of our plans, several local businesses have offered their support, and an organic growing co-operative has kindly offered to provide us with seasonal produce. We’ve also just received our first external booking from HIT Training, a leading apprenticeship and training provider for the hospitality and catering industry. 

Our course content will evolve as we go, and we can’t wait to get going with our first learners this autumn. Developed by our Community Services Manager, Nikki Bromley, our free 8-week courses will start by teaching basic food hygiene and how to prepare wholesome sauces that can be adapted to create a variety of meals on a tight budget. By reducing people’s reliance on expensive produce like meat and enabling them to make more nutritious versions of their favourite takeaway meals at a fraction of the cost, we aim to make a real difference.” 

Find out more about the Community Cookery School by clicking here.